The Evolution of BennyHillz UW Control

Before Jace, the Mind Sculptor’s debut in Modern, BennyHillz dominated the UW Control scene with a UW Control deck that would become a new standard for the archetype, known for its versatile proactive design utilizing a balanced combination of planeswalkers, removals, counters, and Spreading Seas. It also had the unique ability to contend with, and consistently beat, Grixis Death’s Shadow and Tron.

BennyHillz’ UW Control
May 2017


My personal favorite iteration to date comes from Anthony Sayre’s 35th place Regionals list:

Anthony Sayre’s (Afroman211) UW Control
June 2018

I reached out to Anthony about the deck and he said he’s had even-to-favorable matchups across the field with the exception of Humans (40/60), which could improve by playing a 5th sweeper. Besides that, the list is very finely tuned, versatile, and balanced in terms of raw power, card advantage, and interaction.

Less Reaction, More Proaction

Here are a few more recent finishes with different versions for comparison:


Keenan Kelly’s (Rhmaha) MTGO 5-0 List
June 2018

 Creatures (6)
Snapcaster Mage
Vendilion Clique
Wall of Omens

Planeswalkers (5)
Gideon of the Trials
Jace, Architect of Thought
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria

Spells (16)
Serum Visions
Supreme Verdict
Wrath of God
Cryptic Command
Negate
Path to Exile
Sphinx’s Revelation

Enchantments (8)
Detention Sphere
Search for Azcanta
Spreading Seas
Lands (25)
Celestial Colonnade
Field of Ruin
Flooded Strand
Ghost Quarter
Glacial Fortress
Hallowed Fountain
Island
Mystic Gate
Plains
Temple of Enlightenment

Sideboard (15)
Vendilion Clique
Negate
Supreme Verdict
Disdainful Stroke
Dispel
Geist of Saint Traft
Rest in Peace
Runed Halo
Settle the Wreckage
Stony Silence
Timely Reinforcements


Noah Andrews (Noahband) and Tom White (McWinSauce) have been playing similar lists with positive results:


Noahband’s Modern Challenge 5-2 List
June 2018

Creatures (7)
Snapcaster Mage
Vendilion Clique
Wall of Omens

Planeswalkers (3)
Gideon of the Trials
Jace, the Mind Sculptor

Spells (17)
Serum Visions
Supreme Verdict
Wrath of God
Cryptic Command
Negate
Path to Exile
Settle the Wreckage
Sphinx’s Revelation

Enchantments (8)
Detention Sphere
Search for Azcanta
Spreading Seas
Lands (25)
Celestial Colonnade
Field of Ruin
Flooded Strand
Ghost Quarter
Glacial Fortress
Hallowed Fountain
Island
Plains

Sideboard (15)
Vendilion Clique
Negate
Supreme Verdict
Condemn
Crucible of Worlds
Dispel
Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
Rest in Peace
Runed Halo
Stony Silence
Timely Reinforcements


McWinSauce’s MTGO PTQ 7-2 List
June 2018

McWinSauce has updated his list since his 5-2 MOCs performance, which now plays Dragonlord Ojutai in the main. He finished 7-2 in an MTGO PTQ on 6/17/18. I asked him about this change and what he thought about UW Miracles. Here’s what he had to say:

“I found myself siding in Ojutai in nearly every match. You can side it out, but I think it’s good game one.

The way Modern removal currently lines up in the meta-game, Ojutai is a one card win condition. It is a cheaper game one Elspeth that isn’t affected by Thalia, Guardian of Thraben.

The people playing four Terminus and Entreat are delusional. BBD had access to Ponder, Preordain and Top in the No-Ban-List Modern event and still only played one Terminus.”

He makes a valid point about Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, the culprit that influenced Curryvore to play Venser, Shaper Savant and Archangel Avacyn in the main, but it also gets around Negate and Stubborn Denial. In regards to UW Miracles, Anthony, Keenan, Tom, and Ben aren’t fond of it and would rather stick to their tried-and-true UW Control.

What you’ll immediately notice from these lists, particularly Keenan and Noah’s, are the minimal number of counters in the main compared to Anthony’s version, but their core designs are similar. They’ve opted for the same suite of three Cryptic Command and one Negate whereas Tom plays a Logic Knot in addition to those four. This direction is what I’ve echoed in my recent article covering UW Midrange, which is another viable way to play UW in Modern that’s closer in design to Benny’s UW Control than UW Miracles.

In the article, I mentioned..

“If Eldrazi Winter of 2016, Grixis Death’s Shadow, Humans, and the recent NBL results, taught us anything about Modern, it’s to be more efficient, proactive, and play more to the board. Despite Combo, such as Storm, and big mana like Tron, Modern has been, and continues to be, a creature-dominant format.

Counters have an important role for Control players against particular decks, but playing to the board is ultimately where you want to be as a Midrange or Control deck out of the gates, at least against an open field at larger events…”

That said, Keenan said he’s missed the 5th counter. I think anywhere from four to seven counters is where you want to be, with at least nine to ten in the 75. With Tron and KCI’s dominance at GP Vegas, I’d lean more toward six to seven in the main. Anthony’s list is an ideal example, but I’d play a third two-cmc counter over second Spell Snare.

Lastly, the most impressive performance has been from ‘Aggroathlet’, who finished 11-1 for 2nd place in a recent Modern PTQ on 6/3/18 with his own twist:


Aggroathlet’s MTGO PTQ 2nd Place List
May 2018

Planeswalkers (4)
Gideon of the Trials
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria

Creatures (3)
Snapcaster Mage
Wall of Omens

Spells (20)
Serum Visions
Supreme Verdict
Terminus
Timely Reinforcements
Wrath of God
Cryptic Command
Mana Leak
Negate
Opt
Path to Exile
Settle the Wreckage
Spell Snare
Sphinx’s Revelation

Enchantments (8)
Detention Sphere
Search for Azcanta
Spreading Seas
Lands (25)
Celestial Colonnade
Field of Ruin
Flooded Strand
Hallowed Fountain
Island
Mystic Gate
Plains

Sideboard (15)
Negate
Supreme Verdict
Timely Reinforcements
Celestial Purge
Condemn
Disdainful Stroke
Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
Rest in Peace
Runed Halo
Stony Silence
Vendilion Clique

If you haven’t already read it, you can catch his write up here on CKL: UW Control with Aggroathlet

UW Control vs UW Miracles

I’ve come across players who have asked if Ben Hill’s UW Control is still viable despite UW Miracles’ presence. Here’s your answer from Ben Hill himself, who had the opportunity to play Anthony’s list on MTGO:

I ran a couple matches with Anthony’s version and I really liked the feel of it. The proactivity and planeswalker package really lets it close games out before allowing opponents to draw out of sticky situations. I haven’t tried the Miracle lists that much, but I think I like this version better. It definitely feels smoother and more consistent than most other builds, which, as you know, is something I really prioritize.”

I don’t think one is better than the other as each have their advantages and disadvantages and both cater to different play styles. The former is more proactive, while the latter is generally reactive. That considered, I do believe the former is better suited for the format.

Ben’s version is tailored to support the Gideon package and land disruption plan, while UW Miracles is designed to utilize Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, and Search for Azcanta more effectively.

Lastly, Ben’s UW Control is better vs Eldrazi/Tron, TitanShift, Ad Nauseam, Storm, Jeskai Control, Burn, Infect, and Grixis Death’s Shadow, while UW Miracles is better vs Bogles, Humans, Hollow One, Dredge, Living End, Company, Affinity, and Mardu. It’s also worth consideration that Ben’s UW is better against blue-based creature decks where Supreme Verdict is better than Terminus, which is most relevant in the Grixis Death’s Shadow match-up.

The More Things Change, the More they Remain the Same

While the meta has changed since last year, with Mardu, Jeskai Control, Hollow One, and Humans leading the way, the results at GP Vegas has proved that Tron and KCI are Modern forces that we need to respect at a competitive level. Grixis Death’s Shadow is also on the rise again, which means you’ll want to be careful about spreading your Verdicts too thin. You’ll want at least two in the main. Furthermore, you may want to continue playing Gideon of the Trials. As the saying goes, the more things change, the more they remain the same.

This is why I stick to UW above other UWx archetypes, particularly BennyHillz UW Control and UW Midrange. You might not dominate aggressive creature decks or close games the way Jeskai does, but you’re neutral to favorable across the field with very few ‘bad’ match-ups. Your experience also leverages less favorable match-ups.

As a Control player, it’s hard for me to play without Stony Silence and Rest in Peace in this format. I choose not to just ‘give up’ or ‘dodge’ a Modern staple like Tron, or relevant graveyard decks like Hollow One, Dredge, and Living End, and as long as KCI is a thing. A very degenerate thing, if I may add.

Bottomline: It was true then and true now – BennyHillz UW Control’s design is probably the most balanced and versatile approach to UWx Control in Modern.

As always,

Assess, adapt, & ascend.

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